Helicopter parents are popping up everywhere these days. The metaphor has been around since the ’70s, but schools and summer camps are reporting the phenomenon now more than ever.
Helicopter Parenting – Definition
A “helicopter parent” is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Why “helicopter?” Because like the small aircraft, they “hover overhead,” overseeing every aspect of their child’s life constantly.
Experts trace the rise of helicopter parenting to an increase in fear in the last few decades. The media is constantly broadcasting child abductions and horror stories, sparking widespread paranoia about child safety.
American college administrators starting using the term regularly in the 2000s as Millennials started reaching college age. Their baby-boomer parents quickly earned a reputation for complaining to professors about their children’s grades, and even calling them in the morning to wake them up for class. Summer camp officials reported the same behavior, with kids ranging from elementary to high-school age.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, helicopter parents don’t stop after college — they even make decisions for their adult children, at the graduate school level and beyond. An NPR article reported that parents of now-adult Millennials were showing up in the workplace, or calling the child’s manager to negotiate their salaries.
So this begs the question: If parents are doing everything for their kids, even through graduate school and beginning careers, when do these kids — now adults — learn to do things on their own?
Helicopter parents are just trying to make sure their kids are on the right path — but they’re doing so by paving it for them. Lenore Skenazy, founder of the “free-range parenting” movement, reminds parents: “A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.”